RALEIGH, N.C. – More than 12,500 veterans and their families across multiple states participated in a telephone townhall meeting with the group Concerned Veterans for America to discuss a wide variety of issues confronting veterans today, from unemployment among veterans to military voting.
“The benefit of the system is the ability to efficiently target veterans in places where we want to grow the organization,” Hegseth said. “We’ve got an opportunity to speak live with people that we never would have otherwise been able to.”
The call featured Jessie Jane Duff, a former Marine gunnery sergeant and expert on military voting, and Pete Hegseth, CEO of Concerned veterans for America, who answered questions that callers had for them regarding important veterans issues.
“Maybe they’re not on Facebook, maybe they don’t watch TV, maybe they’re not as involved in the political conversation, but when you call them up, they stay on the line, they want to talk about issues, they get engaged, they believe in what we’re talking about, and then they sign on,” he continued. “So it’s just another proactive way to build the grassroots network and spread the message.”
One of the main issues highlighted by Hegseth was the growing backlog of Veterans Affairs claims which has grown from about 400,000 to about about 880,000 today, with the backlog of claims older than 125 days growing nearly 150 percent, according to Hegseth.
The call also focused on military voting restrictions and the federal government’s alleged inaction on implementing certain provisions of the Military and Overseas Voters Empowerment Act — which aimed to help active military personnel and citizens abroad to vote.
In Virginia, North Carolina, and Ohio only 5,411 of the 288,961 active duty military members and spouses have requested absentee ballots for the November election — less than 2 percent of eligible military voters for those three states, according to the Military Voter Protection Project.
Another issue that was the national debt which has topped $16 trillion and is projected to grow larger in the future.
“Our debt is going to crush us if we don’t address it,” Hegseth told those participating in the tele-townhall, adding that the debt coupled with a languishing economy will be detrimental to U.S. national security.
To CVA, one of the pressing issues facing veterans is the planned defense sequestration that will take place at the end of this year if Congress does not reach a deficit reduction agreement. The Budget Control Act triggers cuts to the defense budget by nearly $500 billion over 10 years.
In last night’s debate, President Obama said sequestration “would not happen,” which confused Republicans in Congress who argue that the president has not put a plan forward to avoid sequestration.
“[W]e were all surprised by the President saying that the sequester ‘will not happen’ given that he still hasn’t presented a plan to make sure it ‘will not happen,’” said a spokesperson for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
“We can’t afford to chop our defense budget and undermine our capabilities,” Hegseth said to the tele-townhall participants.
The tele-townhall also conducted several polls, one of which was whether or not participants believed that President Obama’s policies helped or hurt the economy. Of the 199 respondents, 73 percent said Obama’s policies hurt the economy, while only 28 percent said they helped the economy.
The group dialed more than 86,000 homes across five states, including North Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. Of those more than 12.500 participated at various times throughout the townhall by listening in, participating in polls, and asking questions.
CVA is currently touring the east coast hitting up Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, and Ohio. The tour aims to raise awareness about veterans issues, including the ones addressed in the tele-townhall.
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